Rank Group Fined £500k Following Gambler’s £1M Losing Spree

Rank Group Fined £500k Following Gambler's £1M Losing Spree

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has slapped the Rank Group with a massive £500,000 ($657,400) fine after the gambling company extended one of its customers £1 million in online credit before allowing him to lose the whole amount gambling over the course of a single 24-hour period. After finding that the UK based firm had failed to follow strict rules concerning credit lines and self-exclusion, Richard Watson, Gambling Commission executive director, commented:

“We expect all operators to protect any consumer who may be experiencing problems with their gambling, and operators shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that VIP customers don’t experience difficulties.”

The Rank Group

The Rank Group is one of the UK’s biggest gambling companies, and has a portfolio which includes both live and online operations. This includes running 55 land-based Grosvenor Casinos and 85 Mecca Bingo sites in major cities across the country. Its online products also includes the likes of www.grosvenorcasinos.com and meccabingo.com.

The Rank Group employs around 10,700 people, and in 2017 generated £707.2 million in revenue, resulting in a net income of £62.9 million. The company’s shares are currently valued at £173, giving it a market capitalization of £677.45 million.

The Case

The UKGC found that the Rank Group had broken a number of rules concerning its responsible gambling directives. Not only did a company official visit the gambler during a self-exclusion period, but the following year it failed to follow provision of credit rules, and after lending him £1 million proceeded to watch him gamble it all away over a 24-hour period, despite the customers evidently displaying symptoms of problematic behavior.

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In 2016, the customer had self-excluded himself from the casino’s website for no less than six months, but contrary to the rules, a General Manager of Grosvenor Casinos paid him a ‘keep in contact visit’ at his overseas home during this period. The manager even requested that the customer then be re-installed, although Rank flatly refused the request.

Following his self-exclusion period coming to a end, the long-standing Grosvenor Casinos customer returned to gambling online, but after encountering delays while attempting to transfer offshore funds into his UK bank account, the customer’s VIP manager requested online credit be granted by senior Rank officials. A mere 24-hours after receiving the funds, however, and the whole £1 million had been gambled away.

In 2017, an enforced break was subsequently imposed on the customer after his gambling activity quickly escalated.

£500k Penalty

The UKGC handed the Rank Group a £500,000 penalty which will subsequently go to GambleAware, an independent charity tasked with funding research and discovering treatment services to help minimize gambling-related harm in the UK. According to Watson the penalty would have been even higher if not for the positive action taken by the Rank Group in “self-reporting their failures” and being “open and transparent” during the course of the regulator’s investigation.

In the meantime, a Rank spokesperson said that the company accepts that the responsible gambling controls it applied during this “isolated case” concerning a high rolling customer were wholly insufficient. As he went on to explain:

“Since this incident, we have worked hard to improve our processes and controls to avoid such a scenario reoccurring.”

£18m in Fines for 2017-18

The UKGC issued gambling companies more than £18 million ($23.6m) in fines during the financial year 2017-18. This figure includes 888 Holdings receiving a record £7.8 million ($10m) penalty after 7,000 of its self-excluded customers were able to access their accounts and lose more than £3.5 million over a 13 month period.

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In addition to protecting consumers, the regulator said that its was also concerned with raising the overall standards of the UK gambling industry. As UKGC chief executive Neil McArthur explains:

“We also want operators to collaborate and invest the same amount of resource, technology and research into building better protections for consumers, as they do to creating new products, or advertising and marketing campaigns.”